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Underwear hung by the Old Well on Tuesday, students bring attention to campus sexual assault

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Underwear hang by the Old Well on Tuesday morning, March 28, 2023.

Content Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault.

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Students walking on campus Tuesday morning could see over 100 pairs of women’s underwear — various colors, sizes and styles — hanging from the tree directly behind the Old Well.

Beneath the branches, a shiny pink plaque read: “National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673.” 

A group of students in the class ART 490: Art as Social Action created the project to bring attention to sexual assault on campus.

Preparation for the display began in early March, with students going to thrift stores to buy the underwear. A group came to campus early the morning of the display to set up ladders near the Old Well and place pairs of underwear on the tree branches.  

As classes began for the day, passersby began taking out their phones to get pictures of the display. Some even stopped their walk to get a closer look. 

This project is the students’ project for a class taught by Professor Hong-An Truong. She said this semester is the first time the course has been offered as a full semester class instead of a Maymester course.

“Meaningful artistic projects are projects that kind of exist in that space of ambiguity that has the power to really compel people to think more deeply about an issue or a topic,” Truong said.

For Lauren Guillemette, a junior who worked on the project, ART 490 was more than just a class, it was an opportunity to shed light on her friends’ experiences.

“For me, personally, coming to college and having a lot of female friends, it’s a little bit jarring the amount of people who tell you about their personal experiences with sexual assault,” Guillemette said.

She said sexual assault prevention is a topic that is constantly on her mind.

The primary goal of the project, Guillemette said, was to get the University’s attention and to emphasize how much students do care about prevention. 

“I wasn’t ready to come to college, in the sense of like, I was not ready to accept that this is the reality that women have to live in,” Abby Pallant, a junior who worked on the project, said.

Pallant said the group originally wanted to include a statistic or a poem about sexual assault on the plaque, but decided that including the sexual assault hotline number would be more informative.

This type of project is something she’ll tell people about in the future, she said.

A few hours after the project was unveiled, the art pieces were taken down by maintenance workers.

“Hopefully, this is the instigation for more conversation around the lack of addressing sexual assault on campus and the ways that a lot of cases go unresolved and that it’s not a broader topic of conversation,” Truong said.

Additional sexual assault prevention resources can be found via the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office.

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@eileenfoster_

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